Start with Laughter: Increasing productivity

Increasing Team Productivity

I wanted to talk about laughter today, as right now we seem to overflowing with things to worry about.

I read an article awhile back about the relationship between laughter and productivity that stated,

“People are more productive right after they have been laughing”.

I don’t have the source of that article, nor any data to support it, but it resonated with me. I thought it was probably true, and I would like it for that to be true, so I decided to give it a try.

Being too business-like

It was a bit awkward in the beginning, as

I spent a lot of time earlier in my career being overly serious all the time.

I was too young for the jobs I had, I was female, often unwelcome — so I always thought it was important to get right to down business — Nothing trivial, nothing personal.

It seemed too risky to not start every meeting in a serious way, as I was so very self-conscious about being taken seriously.

When people came into my office I would jump right into the business discussion with no warm up whatsoever.

The problem with this was that while I thought I was impressively getting right to the point, and that people would be grateful that I wasn’t wasting ther time, instead I learned that others found this off-putting, or downright scary.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this feedback, as I still wanted to be taken seriously, but I certainly didn’t want to be scary!

The role of laughter and humanity

So this laugther thing, seemed worth at least a test.

At one of my staff meetings, which at the time were on Monday mornings, I told everyone about the article and said, “We are going to try this… So…Who has a story about something funny that happened this weekend? Heard any good jokes?”

There was a moment of hesitation given my overly serious, recent history, but we quickly got rolling. We spent about 10 minutes laughing, and only after that did I take out the agenda.

It was one of the most productive staff meetings ever!

So I continued to start as many interactions and meetings as possible with a bit of laughter.

And it continued to pay off.

Do I ever encounter a stick in the mud who raises his eyebrows and wants to only be serious. Of course. When that happens I just immediately switch into serious mode and we go forward. My initial smile never injured anyone else or my chances at credibility.

Encouraging laughter is one way to show that you welcome humanity in the workplace.

If this idea of embracing humanity (yours and others) in the workplace, is important to you and you have not yet seen my TEDx talk, Reclaiming Humanity at Work, you might enjoy it.

Spreading the Laughter and Productivity

One of the other things I like to do in staff meetings is to always invite an outsider — Someone from another organization, or sometimes someone from a customer or external partner. It’s a really easy way to share information and create context without doing any extra work!

These people would have the strangest look on their faces during the first 10 minutes when we would all be laughing. I imagine they were thinking, “Why am I here for this waste of time? These people are not working…”

But pretty much every single person I invited in, after the meeting was over said to me, “That was one of the most productive meetings I have ever been to!”

Ready to work

I have used this technique forever after in many different contexts and situations and it virtually always works.

If you respect peoples’ humanity and give them a chance to warm up and situate themselves in the context of what is happening, you are far more likely to build trust, get buy-in, and get people ready to do the hard work.

Much more so than by just starting with the hard work.

What do you think?

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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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